Tag Archives: Writing

Harry The Piano and Gauntlet of Fire

There should always be room for a bit of fun in the school day, especially if it involves exposure to amazing musical skill. My PT today showed me this video of Harry The Piano playing the main theme from Harry Potter in a huge variety of styles – shouted out at random from (I presume) the person doing the filming. This is a great inspiration for pupils, many of whom (along with some teachers) have a dread of melodic improvisation, far less harmonic.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/PwpBSHEHEek?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

I’ve said it before, but feel it’s worth repeating, that the parallels between Music and Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) are not, in my opinion, as straightforward as one would imagine. One might imagine reading, writing, listening, speaking in MFL to equate with reading, composing, listening, playing in Music. I’d contend that a more realistic parallel would be playing, composing, listening, improvising.

Compared to many generations gone by, we have made great strides in regarding musical improvisation as something ordinary mortals should be able to attempt, but there’s a long way to go

World Book Day

Thursday, being World Book Day, I took my current read into school, as suggested – Proust And The Squid by Maryanne Wolf. Although it is pure coincidence of timing, it seemed to me that there could be no book more fitting. Aware that the title did not automatically yield clues to content, I said simply, “it’s about reading and the brain.” Most pupils had a quick look at the front cover. Only one, a girl in S1, read the back cover – and then said, “cool.”

I thought that this would be the ideal opportunity to conduct a short survey on reading habits. The aim was to have four straightforward questions and for the entire process to last 30 seconds, so as not to intrude on lesson time. The sample group represent, I would contend, the motivated pupil – people prepared to carry an instrument to school at least once-a-week; prepared to practise 5 days-a-week at home; prepared to catch up on work missed while at their instrumental lesson; prepared to spend lunchtimes and Friday afternoons rehearsing in school and local authority ensembles; prepared to represent the school in several concerts each year.

The sample comprised 23 pupils – 13 boys and 10 girls – the age range S1 – S6. Percentages have been rounded up/down to the nearest whole number.

Question 1:   Apart from school reading, are you reading anything else – for interest or pleasure?

Whole group – 48%      Boys – 38%      Girls – 80%

Question 2:   Is there a book which you plan to get round to reading?

Whole group – 65%      Boys – 54%      Girls – 80%

Question 3:   Do you ever read a book more than once?

Whole group – 48%      Boys – 23%      Girls – 80%

Question 4:   Do you enjoy writing – anything at all – even funny emails to friends?

Whole group – 52%      Boys – 31%      Girls – 80%

The difference is those currently reading for pleasure and those planning to read could be explained by the timing of the survey – various SQA folios were due in by the end of the week; the SQA Music practical exams were imminent. The interest in re-reading seemed the most straightforward way of trying to distinguish those who read to find out what happened next from those who experienced some joy in the language or created world within any given book. Almost without exception, the response to being asked about enjoying writing was, “school stuff?” The tone implied horror at the very suggestion that this could be enjoyable. Perhaps this conveyed a feeling of being beset by deadlines.

Assuming that we all believe reading and writing to be good things, it seems clear that boys are missing out somewhat.

Had the survey been about dance, the statistics would have been more stark. It seems that almost all girls on my timetables are involved in some kind of dance activity in or out of school. To the best of my knowledge no boys are.


Staffroom Monologues

Since beginning this blog, I’ve been experimenting with other forms of writing and have twice entered, so far without success, the Teachers TV Staffroom Monologues Competition. While it would be nice to win, the main reason I’m attracted to competitions is a fondness for deadlines and the freedom afforded by restriction – 1,000 word limit in this case. Although the subject matter of my entry this year was blogging, social software and school life, the content is entirely fictional: mp3 by Alan Coady

You can see films of last year’s winners here including the very amusing Locked Stockroom and Two Smoking Gerbils featuring Bill Paterson.